I am starting to meet with various CNC salesmen. This will be my first CNC router purchase. What are the most important points in selecting a CNC router?
From contributor J:
Here are a few (not in order).
Regarding the machine:
What are you planning to do, as in: frame vs. frameless, higher production vs. more custom capabilities, nested base or not (if not, what are the bed consumables: vacuum cups/pods and how costly to replace)?
What machinery is currently in place? What machines would either complement or become obsolete with a new router in place?
What experience, if any, do you have with CNC in general? Can you perform any routine setup/maintenance/troubleshooting without paying for factory support?
What control is being offered? Is it, or can it, communicate directly with the PC CAD/CAM station you will be buying?
With regard to salesmen:
Where do the machine and controller originate (country)? Will your support requirements be served directly by the factory, or through a secondary sales entity?
How complete is their quote? Does it include equipment to match the machine's voltage requirements to your shop? Does it include any tooling? Vacuum pump? Software (one of the most important considerations, if increased productivity is what you're looking for). Gang drill? Delivery and rigging?
I wish you luck on your selection, but I would say this: listen to the salesman when he tells you the price (this is something he actually knows about), but only trust your own research as to the realistic capabilities of the machine, and the real differences between the brands. Visit shops in your area to see what their experience has been with a particular brand. Read every post in forums like this. We have already been through it.
You will do yourself a disservice if you take the word of the salesmen on anything. The salesmen is typically trying to spin every comment one direction, and it isn't exactly impartial.
One thing I think you must remember is that nobody's machine will install without problems every time. Maybe it happens occasionally, but with a machine as complex as a CNC router, expect the first month to be filled with hiccups as you work out the kinks. The key is to buy a machine that has the support to keep you moving forward. Local support is always better then paying a tech to fly across the country to help.
Another thing to remember is that machine mass is critical when trying to get the best finish cuts, specifically in hardwoods.
Ask lots of questions and take pictures when you can. It is always hard to remember what you see in a whirlwind tour.
Know what software you are leaning toward. The style of use is flavored by the software available.
We do very little custom cabinet part nesting with our router because the cabinet guys don't want to use a software like Cab Vision or Cabware. Without one of these tools, nesting custom cabinets is slower than just cutting parts with a saw (including programming, nesting, sourcing material, setup, cutting the part, returning excess material, etc.).
We use the router for standard parts and let the box cutter do the rest.
Obviously, if you are in store fixtures doing multiples or doing apartment cabinets, then this is different (because of the assumed larger quantity of repeating pieces), yet another illustration of how your business mix impacts a purchasing decision.
Do yourself a favor and spend lots of time working through this process; don't let yourself be rushed.
If you want to do a lot of horizontal and vertical drilling without large runs, a point-to-point machine with a router would be your best bet.
Keep in mind if you get a multi-head router, you can buy accessories that will enable you to drill horizontal and vertical holes. You can even order a grooving saw.
I agree that a local or independent technician is also a good option when it comes to maintaining your equipment. This is normally more cost-effective due to hourly rates, travel time, and parts. Independents will outsource the parts that they can rather than selling you parts supplied from the manufacturer that are marked up several times before they reach you. Good luck in your CNC purchase.
Depending on what you are planning to do, you should still be able to use your Cabinetware to run the machine. As far as learning CAD, some packages are easier then others. Once again, I would look at a package that will give you the best training and support. Someone that is local to you. As far as the time goes, we (Multicam) generally spend two to three days training on the CAD / CAM software and we find that is enough to get people going and using it. You will have a number of questions in the first month.
If you are properly using the CNC router in your manufacturing, most likely you will use your saw less.
We run a Komo VR510 in our small shop in the nested base format, but we are small. It offers flexibility for a low to medium output shop. We don't have a need for the speed with which a panel saw can produce square, sized panels, and therefore save time by cutting and boring on the same machine. We know another shop locally that is in a similar situation to what I suspect you're in. They also bought a Komo like ours about a year and a half ago, and I don't understand why. How many sheets can you stack for cutting in your saw? With a CNC the answer is only one at a time. The cycle time per panel produced is much faster with a panel saw, and a dedicated point to point machining center is much faster at drilling vs. a nested base router with a gang drill pasted onto it. Also, if you have to end-drill any panels, the nested base machine is not going to help much, since you can't get at the edges of your panels without refixturing.
In our shop, the Komo router fits the bill perfectly, but I think in your situation, the actual application of the machine to your production should be explored further. A nested base CNC router is not the magical answer to every shop's problems, but rather the perfect solution to certain shop's production needs.
If you like what you hear from them, sit down with the salesperson. You will likely be in a much better position to garner the information you need to take the next step.
1 - Design the job with CABNETWARE.
2 - Run a CNC link for the job (this creates drilling and routing patterns only, DXF files, and assigns tools).
3 - Export the DXF files to CADCODE (this software, with few steps, creates the machine code which is sent to our Busellato, optimizes the panels and creates label files which are sent to the Mayer panel saw).
At this point all the information has been sent to both the saw and CNC, and a job number is assigned for each material. Now it is time to make the parts. The process goes as follows:
1 - Saw operator pulls up job number and cuts parts. As each part is cut a label is produced and put on the part.
2 - When all parts are cut, they are edgebanded according to the picture on the label. This is very important as it also serves as a visual reference for part orientation on the CNC (PTP).
3 - Labels with a barcode (very important) are scanned at the Busellato and machined.
This outlines our process using a "cut-band-machine" type approach. A few other points I might add:
1 - Make sure your saw (depending on age) will work with the software and produce labels.
2 - Cabnetware's optimizer is not too good (I have it, but cut my losses and use CadCode).
3 - Don't try and set up Cabnetware's CNC link yourself - hire a Cabnetware installer - it's well worth the money. (We were up and running in 3 days from the point you are at now!)